By Connor Williams:
It seems for the better part of the last decade, the Penguins have had an ongoing debate of who gives them the best chance of winning between the pipes. There were the playoff struggles from the fan-favorite Marc-Andre Fleury and then the playoff heroics from Matt Murray. This ignited a debate that has yet to be resolved. I am in the minority of Penguins fans that was in support of Fleury’s departure to Vegas. It made sense with the salary cap concerns and emergence of Matt Murray. After Fleury’s exit, it seemed like Penguins fans would never love Murray because they believed he was the reason for their hero leaving the team. It’s an unfair mindset and Murray was the younger, better goalie. Murray was dealt to Ottawa this offseason in a similar fashion to Fleury’s exit. Murray had simply priced himself out of the Penguins organization and they turned to the younger, and statistically better goalie, Tristan Jarry.
Jarry won 20 games for the Pens last season and boasted a .921 save percentage, good enough to earn him an all-star nod. He was inked to a contract extension this offseason (3yr, $10.5m), and seemingly held the title of starting goalie for the 2021 season. But here we are again, four games into the season, and we have to talk about whats going on with the Penguins goaltending situation. Jarry has lost his first two starts for the Penguins, while backup Case DeSmith has won both of his. Jarry’s 7.57 GAA and .727 SV % are atrocious and it seems like every puck finds the net. On the other hand, DeSmith’s highlight real pass that fed Teddy Blueger for a 5-on-3 shorthanded goal against the Capital’s was an unbelievable display of athleticism and guts that changed the momentum of the game and ultimately led to a Pens victory. However, I wouldn’t put too much stock into DeSmith. He has looked inconsistent throughout his two starts, allowing Tom Wilson to score on a shot that most junior varsity goalies could stop. Although Jarry has had a miserable start to the 2021 season, he is the only viable long-term option for the Penguins in net. He’s a young goalie experiencing some growing pains with a weak defense and a team searching for consistency.
In Jarry’s first two starts, the Penguins were playing without Kasperi Kapanen and were using Cody Ceci and Mike Matheson on defense. Both defensemen are atrocious in their own zone, and in my opinion, have no business being in the NHL. The 56-game season is very compact and will feature lots of back-to-back games, so a tandem in goal is to be expected. DeSmith will have more playing time than a normal season and can hopefully carry some of his early success. The Pens’ inconsistencies stretch farther than just the goal, but the season is young and they have time to figure it out. I wouldn’t worry too much about Jarry’s early struggles, the team is finding their stride and I expect him to return to All-Star form in no time. Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy. Its not time to panic…yet.